Excite@Home Says Usage Stats Fell

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Excite@Home Corp. said cable-modem subscribers are becoming more mainstream, even though usage of the online service has dropped precipitously over the past year.

Based on a survey of 2,800 Excite@Home subscribers conducted late last year, the average subscriber spent 13 hours a week online in 2000, compared with 19 hours a week the year prior.

The company attributed the decline to the fact that cable-modem service is no longer solely the province of tech-oriented early adopters.

"We were a little surprised they [the numbers] came down from as much as they did," said Seth Cohen, director of market strategy at Excite@Home. The results mean "we've left the early adopter part of the curve," he said, and show that high-speed data is becoming mainstream.

Even though usage is down, Excite@Home's subscriber count climbed past three million late last year, the largest of any broadband-service provider. And churn remains in the 2 percent to 3 percent range, Cohen said-another indication that subscribers are largely happy with the service.

"Our churn isn't to dial-up," he said. "We lose customers because they move or switch to another competitor."

Excite also said the percentage of women that use the service rose from 32 percent last year to 36 percent this year. "We need to drill down into the mainstream much, much faster," Cohen said.

For instance, Excite@Home changed colors (from red-and-black to pastels) and brought along content providers like Discovery and education companies for its 2000 mall tour. In previous years, its partners were technology companies like 3Com Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc., Cohen said.

The warm-and-fuzzy appeal paid off with increased sign-ups from women, a trend Cohen believes will continue. "We're repositioning the service," he said.

And though broadband users-including digital-subscriber-line customers-spend an average of 14 hours a week online (compared to 10 hours a week for dial-up users), Excite@Home said, the heavy-user category also dropped year over year. The percentage of broadband users who spent 20 hours a week online dropped from 43 percent in 1999 to 23 percent in 2000.

Excite@Home said 44 percent of its broadband users have been surfing the Internet for more than five years, compared to 25 percent of dial-up users.

Broadband users tend to be more educated and affluent than dial-up users, the survey found. Some 43 percent of broadband users have a college degree, compared with 39 percent of dial-up subscribers. Gross household income for broadband users averaged $77,000, Excite@Home said, versus $67,000 for dialup users.

Cohen believes the average-income figure will also drop over time, as college students graduate and seek broadband connection speeds similar to those they experienced on campus.

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